The Abbotsford School District board of education. Dustin Godfrey/Abbotsford News

Abby Schools

Parents in this B.C. city can no longer opt kids out of class for personal beliefs

Change comes as part of ‘big overhaul’ of school district’s learning resources policy approved by board

Abbotsford parents will no longer be able to excuse their children from approved learning materials based on personal values, after a new policy was unanimously approved by the school board.

The policy change comes after school board elections last fall, which were widely seen as a referendum on SOGI (sexual orientation, gender identity) policies. Numerous candidates ran in school districts throughout the Lower Mainland against SOGI, many calling it an issue of parental rights regarding the materials children are exposed to in school.

Abbotsford School District Superintendent Kevin Godden brought the new learning resources policy to school board Tuesday night, emphasizing changes to the process for parents to formally challenge the use of learning resources in their children’s class.

“I think it just needed some more rigor,” Godden said. “I just think it was a little muted in the policy. So it just needed to come forward, and part of it was the ministry really changing their policy, really delegating the entire [learning resource] responsibility to school districts, which forces us to the position of now making sure our policy is really robust.”

RELATED: Questions and clarity on SOGI 123 in Abbotsford

RELATED: LGBTQ activists, allies in Victoria counter anti-SOGI protest with rally of their own

Asked for a copy of the new policy that highlights changes by trustee Phil Anderson, Godden said the new policy is a “big overhaul” that could not be conveniently reflected in notations on the document.

Indeed, the overall learning resources policy has been reduced from nine sections to five.

Changes to the challenge process begin with the first subsection, eliminating off the bat a clause that allowed parents and guardians to excuse their children from learning materials based on their personal views.

Section 9.1 of the old policy states that parents and guardians “have a right to excuse their child from access to material which conflicts with their personal values.”

“Irrespective of the challenge process … if any parent/guardian feels his/her concerns are not satisfactorily addressed, he/she may request that his/her child be excused from a class or portion of a curriculum and/or be provided with alternative learning resources,” the former policy states.

In the current policy, that subsection has been significantly pared down, with no mention of excusing children from class or learning materials.

Trustee Korky Neufeld, who returned to the school board after campaigning on parental rights, suggested there is likely another overarching policy that allows parents to opt their children out of personally objectionable content. However, with the exception of sexual health courses, a district spokesperson said that is not so.

“While the district respects that parents must make individual choice for their children, there is no provision in district policy or the School Act for them to opt their child out of instruction directly connected to the provincial curriculum,” school district spokesperson Kayla Stuckart said.

“Student absences could impact the teacher’s ability to assess their progress relative to curriculum standards. As a result, that may be reflected on the student’s report card.”

Neufeld did not return a request for further comment as of publication.

The process for filing a complaint has changed under the new policy, as well.

Instead of lodging a complaint with the superintendent, who “may strike a Reconsideration Committee to review the challenged resource,” the complaint is now filed with the director of instruction “who will strike a Reconsideration Committee to review the resource.”

It also includes a new, more detailed challenge form, which asks the challenger about outcomes of discussions with school staff, the perceived effect of the resource and whether the challenger has reviewed the entire resource.

Godden said he was aware of four official challenges coming forward in the last year for school material.

“I think a lot of parents don’t know about it, and I think we have to be really good to make sure it is public and upfront. Because I’m sure there’s more than four parents that are concerned about something that’s going on in their kids’ classrooms,” Godden said.

“I think some of those parents don’t know, when they don’t get the answer they don’t want, where to go. I think we’ve just got to communicate that a little better.”

Godden couldn’t name any topics that were specifically called out in the formal complaints.

Find more of our coverage on the Abbotsford School District here.

Report an error or send us your tips, photos and video.

Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

@dustinrgodfrey

Send Dustin an email.
Like the Abbotsford News on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Elk River reclaims property as its own

Laws make it harder to protect private land than ever before says farmer, local government

Smoke-free summer a boon for West Kootenay tourism

Tourism centres seeing numbers up

Black Press Kootenay Career Fair underway in Cranbrook

Today, Thursday, August 22, around 40 employers will be waiting to meet potential new employees

National trail group decries province’s plans for West Kootenay trail

Converting trail back to motorized use will harm its international reputation, says official

Cannings to pedal through South Okanagan — West Kootenay riding

MP leaves from Nakusp on Aug. 23 and ends in Kaleden on Aug. 29.

New police force in Surrey must avoid VPD, RCMP errors made in Pickton case: Oppal

Boots are scheduled to be on the ground by spring 2021

Conan turns to the Property Brothers for tips on buying Greenland

Jonathan Scott suggests removing glaciers and mountains to bring in ‘more natural light’

Forests minister visits B.C. town rocked by multiple mill shutdowns

A third of Mackenzie turns out for rally, not much to cheer about

NDP bring Green New Deal to the Kootenays

MPs Wayne Stetski and Peter Julian held climate change talks in Nelson, Cranbrook and Revelstoke

B.C. sockeye returns drop as official calls 2019 ‘extremely challenging’

Federal government says officials are seeing the same thing off Alaska and Washington state

B.C. music teacher accused of sexual misconduct involving girls

Police believe other victims could be out there after the arrest of Lamar Victor Alviar

B.C. family stranded in Croatia desperate to come home

Funds being raised to bring back mom and two children

B.C. man on trial for daughters’ murders says an intruder broke in

Andrew Berry takes stand in his defense for December 2017 deaths of young daughters

Most Read